Work Header

It is Better to be Feared than Loved, If You Cannot be Both

Work Text:

He didn't have the best childhood.

Did anyone truly have a spectacular childhood, though? Perhaps everyone had some skeletons in their closets to a degree, but most could at least hold onto something dear from their pasts. Many often tended to look back on their pasts with a certain fondness, a certain longing for what they could no longer claim. "Youth is wasted on the young," or so it had been said. Even if he had a sub-par childhood, there was something charming about the youth he had so abruptly lost. He never gave it up willingly, and that was what had irked him all this time.

When putting the pieces together, Magus could sometimes argue he had a better life now than when he did as a child. Here he was a king, a leader, adored and revered by so many. As a child he was cast aside like a shadow, the unwanted member of the royal family. For all his life, there had been dark whispers about him; as a child, he was simply odd and scoffed at. But as a dark leader, the common populace fearfully whispered and spread rumors about his heinous crimes. The Mystics were none too clean about their deeds at times, and as their leader, Magus was only feared to be much worse. Most humans had no idea what he looked like, but they were content to dream up nightmarish images. And Magus was just fine with that.

He had more love here than he ever had as a child, right?

The year had been 12,000 BC according to modern time measurements as Magus had been able to ascertain through the dusty books in the library; though Zeal had gone by a completely different calendar system. 1532 ZE or something like it was the "official" Zealian time, but did it really matter? The calendars had all been lost to the sea, along with all the traces of the home he once knew. Thousands of years for everything to decay in the water, for the world to completely forget.

There were plenty of errors in these history texts, as Magus had found out. So many gaps in the lineage, so much conjecture that had been so very off-base. There were simple things such as the abruptly wrong guesses about living habits of the time, and other such things as Queen Regnant Malcah Zeal, his mother, being known as a benevolent ruler. That was a laugh! He had been just a child then, but even he knew more than these books had told. As a quiet child, Magus -- or Janus as he truly was known at the time -- had paid attention to his tutors, had absorbed the information he could. What a bright child, they would muse, So unfortunate that he's so strange.

So had anyone in Zeal truly cared about his absence if he was so strange and unwanted? Did anyone ever notice his absence? Ever since he had stopped using magic, it was as if he had completely disappeared to the kingdom. Feigning the lack of magic helped protect him from the Mammon Machine's influence, but what was the cost? He never got to find out for certain.

The last thing he had seen before falling out of that portal had been the awesome form of Lavos, towering above him. One moment he was in the glory of the Ocean Palace, and now he was in the midst of a forest. Schala was gone, the gurus were gone. Even his cat was gone. Lavos was gone. But he had had no time to process any of that, no time to process the utter fear that coursed through his veins. Landing on the wet grass, the first thing Janus had heard after the flump upon which he hit the ground was a shrieking gasp from an unknown presence nearby. "Did'ja see that? He just fell right outta nothin'!"

Little did Janus know that he had arrived in the middle of a gathering of soldiers, a loose band of Mystics preparing to raid a human village. What he did know for certain, though, was that these monsters were soon pouncing on him, cornering and threatening him. "Tell us about that portal," they sneered, flashing their claws. There was little he could say to avoid the wrath of these beasts, unfortunately. As much as Janus stammered that he knew nothing, that he had no idea how he got here, those Mystics never truly accepted that answer. One beast raised its fierce claws to attack, and Janus flinched as he knew he was about to die. The most logical thing to do in this time of stress then was to unleash a whirlwind of flame to devour these unfortunate creatures. The other Mystics yelped and ran, fearful of this young child with devastating powers, but one stayed for a moment longer. A fat green imp, with a smirk on his face, stood for a moment before departing. The portal no longer mattered, it seemed.

That was his first encounter with the Mystics, the race of beasts that would soon come to revere him as their leader. But first impressions always leave quite an impact on the psyche, and Magus never forgot that day. He never forgot the fat green imp that led those beasts and shrieked about his portal, nor did he forget about that telling smirk.

The humans mostly rejected Janus as an odd child with a piercing gaze, so he never took a liking to them. Orphaned children did not receive the best care in Guardia, as they were often left on the streets to beg like urchins. Janus tried to subsist that way for a bit, but it was such a shock from the royal life he lived that the other orphans quickly tired of his complaining. Every man for himself, every child for himself. They wanted no part of Janus.

His heart burned more and more. He had no place in this strange land, this strange kingdom of Earthbounds. In Zeal, perhaps he had been cast aside, but he had at least one person who cared, and his heart continuously ached for her. Sometimes at night, Janus would clutch his treasured amulet and cry, wishing for the comforting embrace of his sister, for the soothing words that might calm him to sleep. Once upon a time, his own mother might have cared somewhat, but she was hardly a maternal figure. The royal children were mostly raised by attendants and nursemaids, but his mother had dismissed all of them after a time, when she cared about none other than the power of that hideous creature. Janus couldn't even bear to think of its name, for it was such a putrefying word.

Janus had few resources with which to survive as an orphaned child on the streets, so of course he eventually resorted to using his magic. He froze the lock of a store and broke it to sneak in and steal a loaf of bread, but unfortunately he was not alone. Shocked and appalled, the police force had arrested Janus for theft and thrown him in jail. Even though Janus could have attacked them with his magic, he had enough good graces about him to know that unlike his encounter with the Mystics, his life was not in danger. How silly he should hold back then, as he would later kill humans with little thought. As the police debated amongst themselves how to handle this juvenile delinquent, that's when that fat green imp showed up again. He saw the kid's magic, he saw the potential, and he wanted to use it. History was then made as Ozzie broke the boy out of prison and gave him some semblance of a home. One for one - a near-murder made up for with a prison break. Janus could have gotten out on his own, he later mused.

To describe how exactly he overpowered the Mystics from there would be a complicated affair, but when it was broken down, it was a simple matter of who had the most power. Like anything, Janus came to control his powers, using them to unleash devastating destruction. The lesser Mystics cowered before him, offering anything he wished for if only he would be their ally. He was a brilliant tactician, transforming Ozzie's ragtag rebel groups into a full-out army, and it was a legacy he would leave behind for hundreds of years. He became known among the Mystics as simply Magus, for he was the one with magic so great that it would surely defeat those humans. He accepted this name change quite eagerly.

Despite the fact that Ozzie had essentially been the one to raise Janus from the age of ten or so, he was never seen as a father figure. There was a tiny modicum of respect that Janus held for the imp, but never anything close to a father/son bond. Ozzie was just a convenient resource, a beast who opened a window of opportunity. Likewise, Ozzie never looked at Janus as a son. There was a mutual air of tension, of insults traded back and forth as time passed, of Ozzie abusing the poor boy until Janus could abuse him back. But by the time Ozzie had regretted freeing the boy from jail, he was no match for the awesome magic Janus possessed.

Janus had, at first, simply been treated like an inconvenience, an extra mouth to feed in those trying times. Ozzie never ceased to shout about how grateful the brat should be that he was rescued from a more miserable life. Janus would oblige in his younger years and show some semblance of appreciation after a while, but only when he was forced. In actuality, he hardly saw how living in Ozzie's fort was any different from prison. Both featured poor living conditions with meager rations, both had annoying overseers, both were dark and dank. The only key difference was that Janus was quickly able to figure out how to rise to the top and make use of it quickly. Respect wasn't something that was granted to anyone here, it had to be earned. And after many years of training, Janus eventually earned his share.

At first, he thought of his sister often, the only person in his life he could say he truly loved. There was a time he loved his mother, but none of it resided with him now; each time he thought of his mother he would only feel scathing hatred. Remembering Schala was a comforting feeling, picturing her telling him that everything would be okay. It was a vision he clung to, like an ethereal guardian who gave him the spirit for life. He would talk to the visions of this celestial being and ask for advice, and she would simply smile. But it only helped for so long. As his magic and power grew, he thought of his sister less and less. Power was comforting now, wasn't it? A flash of a concerned face might appear in his vision at these times, but he learned to shut it out. And by his early adulthood, the vision of Schala had been shut out completely.

It wasn't that he no longer loved Schala, it was because his visions of her had been gradually replaced with visions of that horrifying creature who had ripped him from his childhood. He remembered facing that hideous thing right before he was drawn away to this foreign land, the immense hulking form that towered above him, spilling out absolute power and hatred. Janus could never recall feeling more fear than in that moment he was face-to-face with Lavos for the first time as a child, this alien behemoth growling next to him, seeing him as simply an insect. Lavos had sent him here. Lavos had ruined his life. Lavos corrupted his mother and ruined his sister in turn. Janus hated Lavos with every fiber of his being. Even though he had felt fear before, his newfound power led this fear to be replaced with pure anger. Instead of picturing loving arms before he slept, he now pictured hateful spikes and fire.

Janus felt no love for anyone, and none of the Mystics felt love for him. There was great respect, of course, for the leader who might overthrow the humans, but love was absent. As much as his followers might worship him, it never felt like enough. Later in his life, he would gaze at the gleaming statues erected in his image and watch the Mystics proudly sing their devotional songs. It stirred some emotion in him, but it was nothing more than greedy pride. His ego was being fueled gradually, but it hardly helped to assuage any hatred within.

Along with Ozzie, there were Flea and Slash, who equally despised and idolized their new savior. They just wanted him to lead the war, but never cared for him as a person. There were servants and guards and flunkies all devoted to him, all at his beck and call, and he had a whole army willing to fight for him. It was as much as he could have dreamed of as a child, but it was never enough. If he had been allowed to grow up in Zeal and develop his magic there, he would have lived much more glamorously, perhaps with others who actually cared for him. There would have been sunlight and green pastures, beautiful women to attend to him, a mother who might have been proud... He visibly scoffed at that last thought, though. Mother was too much of an annoyance to think about. While Lavos was corrupting her, there was not a single maternal speck within her. No, his life in Zeal then wouldn't be glamorous, because that foul creature would still be there wrecking everything to pieces.

There was little that was glamorous about being the leader of the Mystics. The castle that had been captured for him was indeed an architectural beauty, but it was dark and ominous, devoid of any of the lush scenery and technology that Zeal had possessed. There was nothing beautiful here, nothing sensual. But in the end, Janus didn't care. As he grew older, his aesthetic taste deteriorated until there was nothing left. He didn't want beauty, he didn't want the greenery of Zeal, he didn't want anything that reminded him of that kingdom because he was never going to get it back.

As a child, he knew fundamentally that he would never go home, but it wasn't until the first time he discovered those dusty textbooks in the castle that he knew for certain. At that point, it had been so many years since his arrival in this future that he simply felt nothing, only nodding as his suspicion was confirmed. At least at first.

Days passed. Then weeks. Months, even - until he found himself in that library once more. He perused those books with valor, taking in every piece of information he could about his kingdom's demise. There was so little known about it, since it had happened thousands upon thousands of years ago. It was assumed to result from a natural disaster of a sort, one that coincided with the ice age of the time. Magus had no idea how long it had been after he left that the kingdom vanished; perhaps it was a hundred years, perhaps it was a day. What became of his mother? Did she ever perish from insanity? And Schala... in an ideal scenario, she married and became a benevolent queen, but somehow in his heart, Magus knew that wasn't the case. The way the queen would constantly summon her and abuse her led him to dread other conclusions. He didn't want to think about it. He couldn't think about Schala now without feeling seething hatred for the one who separated them. Lavos was the cause of all of it. Perhaps it was the cause of Zeal's destruction. Magus had little doubt that the creature might be capable of such a thing, or else it could have driven the queen to destroy the kingdom.

It didn't matter. He wanted to kill it. And he knew he could.

As he stood before a room of his top-level Mystics, Magus wove a story of a powerful being, something beyond comprehension. An almighty god of death and destruction, a creature that would be invaluable in the right hands. The enthusiasm of the Mystics grew immensely, wide eyes sparkling with delight upon imagining such a powerful weapon on their side. This could eradicate the humans completely, could it not? Of course they wanted Lavos to be summoned, of course they would help in any way they could. Magus was the only one powerful enough to master summoning spells, but others were eager to help him train. News of the eventual summoning spread across the Mystic country and the new Day of Lavos was eagerly awaited.

Magus had only seen this creature as a young boy, and even then he only had a vague idea of the havoc it could wreak. It had immense power, of course, enough to warp time, enough to alter the minds of those who touched it, enough to cause massive destruction. He had never seen more of an awful, horrible presence than that moment he faced the creature, and all he wanted to do now was slash it to bits, burn it to ashes, freeze its corpse and send it to the netherworld. There was a chance that he would fail and he would be killed, but at least he could drag the rest of the Mystics down with him. Those barbaric, filthy people who feasted on carnage and lived in sloth: they deserved no mercy. They had done nothing for him, only prolonged the years before which he could finally enact his revenge. Ozzie had served his purpose and Magus would not hesitate in disposing of him. The thoughtless worshipers of the statues, the personal attendants - they were all worthless. He wouldn't be glad to see them perish, but he would feel no remorse or sadness whatsoever. The humans deserved to feel the pain of Lavos as well, those humans who so actively fought this war. Overall, perhaps he hated the humans moreso than the Mystics, but in the end it didn't matter. Everyone deserved to feel the pain that Magus felt in that moment of horror when his life had been irreversibly altered. Everyone should face this abomination. Or else, Magus would slaughter it before anyone had the chance to.

He never gave a thought to what his life would be like afterwards. So if he summoned Lavos but killed it instead of unleashing it on the humans, Ozzie and the others would be angry with him. It would be easy to cover this with some excuse, to get the Mystics to cower before him once more. He was their beloved leader, was he not? But ultimately it didn't matter, because this whole war didn't matter. Sentient lifeforms seemed to exist just to battle with one another, and this dichotomy would persist until the end of time. If he slaughtered Lavos and died thereafter, then perhaps that would be the most ideal course of action, as he would have nothing more to live for. Zeal was gone, his sister was gone, and this was all that was left.

There was no hesitation as Magus walked in the darkness, illuminating blue flames with each step. Pure determination painted his features, each step echoing the desire to extinguish the force that wrought this miserable existence. There was no one in this world now except for him and his foe, and the battle would not end until one of them perished. There was no castle, no army of Mystics, no worldwide war. There was simply the soft, low rumbles of a voice penetrating across the dimensions. Nothing else mattered. There was no regret.

"Neuga, zienna, zieber, zom..."